Sunday, September 30, 2007

Closely Observed Trains

iLiKETRAiNS/Shady Bard, Barfly, Birmingham, Monday September 17 2007, 8pm.

This isn't the first time Dead Kenny has seen the improbably capitalized iLiKETRAiNS but it *is* the first time your timetable-troubled tinker has ended up reviewing them. Saw them last year playing alongside London's The Early Years and Birmingham's own Grandscope and your wondering writer did start a review in his head along the lines of how the bands all sounded great but it couldn't be classed as a great gig because of the palpable lack of atmosphere and crowd interaction, musing further about whether this was due to a lacking from the bands or the audience's own shortcomings - to wit, do post-rock groups get the distant, aloof crowds they deserve? Sounds a bit pretentious, we guess, so perhaps it's just as well it never saw light of push-button publishing.

But anyway, we're getting ahead of ourselves here, as there's the not inconsiderable matter of support band Shady Bard to contemplate. Due to scheduling difficulties your dopey diarist only managed to catch one of their songs at this year's Supersonic but it was enough to pique our interest, and knowing that they're a local band astutely guessed it wouldn't be too long before we'd get the chance to study them at greater length and closer detail. Just two months on we were proved right as here they are providing intense and intriguing support on the Barfly stage. The lead singer is a strange sort, oscillating wildly between cockiness and awkwardness, but with a deep rich voice not unlike the lead vox from the main act. The musical palette is much more varied, however, with SB being another project making fulsome use of classical instrumentation and folk-ish stylings, touches here and there recalling Arcade Fire, British Sea Power and Tindersticks, but the resulting mix proving suitably dark and distinctive. They could yet prove to be Best Midlands' most beguiling prospect.

A good year on from the release of 2006's often astonishing mini-LP 'Progress Reform' things seem to have derailed slightly for iLiKETRAiNS, despite the imminent release of their first full-length proper (out on Monday October 1st, record release fact fans). They're again technically impressive, mixing up material well between familiar stuff from 'Progress Reform' and tasters off the new record but it all leaves your chin-stroking correspondent strangely cold and uninvolved. The group have ditched their British Rail uniforms but do still provide a visual backdrop to their elegiac efforts as if in acknowledgement to the fact their earnest endeavours otherwise lack for visual spectacle, while the new songs all seem to have their moments but lack the hooks (on first listening, at least) to compel purchase of their latest offering.

So on the whole found the experience mildly depressing and decided I liked trains enough to catch the next one home rather than waiting for the encore.

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Blogger Ben said...

I should investigate iLiKETRAiNS, I think. Wasn't that impressed by what little I caught of Shady Bard at Supersonic - worth another listen, perhaps.

Interesting thesis about the post-rock crowds - sounds quite well-reasoned rather than pretentious to me.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Really loved last year's 'Progress Reform' but I feel a bit more neutral about the recent stuff, maybe it'd grow on me but there's too much else about at the moment that intriguesme more. The new record does get a good review in this month's Plan B tho' so perhaps I should keep an open mind until I hear the thing in its entirety.

As for Shady Bard - worth catching a full-ish set rather than what we caught at Supersonic. They have a broader range than the trainloving ones but perhaps slightly less intensity.

9:50 PM  

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